Some people say “Grace” at dinner and others don’t. In our house, we try to have the kids review their day and give thanks for one thing. That may sound sweet or adorable, but rarely is it peaceful or angelic. Most times, it’s just frustrating.
The first fight is about who gets to go last. Grace inevitably wants to be last so that she isn’t cut off by a sibling’s turn and can just keep right on talking. James always says, “I’m grateful for all of you,” with little variation, which gets a resounding “BORING”. Now it’s a contest to see who is going to say that first because the latest “rule” in the giving thanks exercise is that you can’t say what someone else has already said. Oh, yes, it gets better and better.
The next delightful thing that happens is an argument among the three boys to see which of them can outshine the other. Ian is that much older and, frankly, quite the brownnoser. He’s perfected the art of syrupy sweetness toward his mother, whereas the other two are just little boys. Because of this, we’ve implemented another rule: We can’t just say what we are grateful for, but now have to say why, and they are starting to keep score.
Elena (3) always says the same thing: “I’m grateful that I cried in the China“(long story), unless it’s her turn to be last and then she says “I’m grateful that I’m last”. Regardless of which answer she gives, there is always the chorus of “Aaahh, come on Mummy, that doesn’t count. She always says the same thing,” which begins a discussion about what is age appropriate.
Grace has to be philosophical about each grateful thought expressed and then has to explain it to us all as it relates to her life.
Most days there is at least one argument, or more common, a fart joke thrown in to ensure any reverence I might have hoped for was thrown right out the window. Kids end up rolling on the ground, laughing in hysterics (causing more flatulence and then more jokes). I can’t keep a straight face and so it spirals downwards and the whole point is moot.
So why do I persist? Truth to tell, I’m not sure.
There is the odd time that something resembling a thoughtful discussion is had and I see a light bulb starting to glow. Other days I am just so grateful that they are laughing and loving each other that it doesn’t matter.
It’s hard with such diverse ages, but what I have noticed is that they are learning to respect each other’s ideas, especially when those ideas are less sophisticated than their own. Eric is very good at expressing himself and it takes Patrick longer to formulate his thoughts. Grace always wants to talk and Elena tries to keep up. But they are learning to stop talking (even Grace) and let someone else have the floor—not easy for small children, or some adults for that matter.
There are many challenges that come with a large family. Each child gets less one on one time, the money must be spread more thinly, the demand on time in general is unbelievably difficult, and they need to help each other because we can’t be in all places at all times.
Ian leads by example and is teaching all the kids that family comes first, how to be a good person and a good son. Eric helps Patrick with his French if I’m not home, Patrick reads to Grace and Elena and Grace teaches Elena how to colour, write and talk—endlessly. They understand intuitively that they can trust in the support of their siblings and they are learning to listen to each other’s needs.
I am so grateful for who they are all becoming, even if the lessons I want them to learn through our “being grateful” exercise are different than what one would expect.
If I could leave them with just one lesson in life, it would be that when tragedy strikes and we have no strength to stand on our own, it will be through the love of family and friends that joy will have a path to return to our hearts. This makes these life lessons worth every exasperating and frustrating moment.
Guess I just answered my own question about why I persist.